You use your toothbrush at least a couple of times every day. It sits on your bathroom counter and then goes right into your mouth. Keeping it clean and dry helps prevent bacteria from harboring within the bristles, but there are still some times when you should immediately change your toothbrush out.
If you’ve had an illness or viral infection such as strep throat or the flu, you need to toss your toothbrush. Most doctors recommend throwing your toothbrush away 24 hours after beginning an antibiotic treatment. It may be in your best interest to use a cheap, disposable toothbrush between that time and when you are completely recovered from your illness to throw away again, before you to back to using a high quality toothbrush or get a new electric toothbrush head. This prevents you from repeatedly buying new, high-end toothbrushes, especially if you have a recurrent illness.
When toothbrush bristles begin to splay out, it’s time to toss it. The additional wear and tear of the bristles can cause microscopic abrasions on your gums and tooth enamel, contributing to abrasion and gum recession which could require gum grafting to correct. Also make sure you’re not brushing too hard. Even if you’re brushing like you should, with soft pressure and a soft bristled toothbrush, you shouldn’t be getting visible bristle splaying for a 2-3 months, if at all. Splayed bristles within a week of use are typically a signal that you’re brushing too hard; they can damage your teeth.
The longest you should use your toothbrush is sometime around 3-6 months. Electric (and some manual) toothbrush heads may offer a visible color or line on the bristles that disappear when they are due to be changed out.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Virginia Kirkland, North Point Periodontics
If you aren’t careful, your toothbrush can actually damage your teeth and gums – really! While medium and hard bristled toothbrushes are available at most major retailers, they are highly abrasive to your teeth. Even if a soft brush is used improperly it can also damage tooth enamel and gum tissue.
Toothbrush abrasion is a condition where a notch of tooth enamel is removed from your tooth, near the gumline. This usually happens over an extended period of time due to aggressive brushing. Tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body, but even it can succumb to excessive daily force!
Abrasion can cause aesthetic concerns as well as tooth sensitivity. Usually abrasion is also combined with gum recession, where the gums pull back from excess pressure during brushing. Treatment options include gum recontouring or gum tissue grafts.
Proper brushing should be done with a soft or extra soft bristled brush, with only enough pressure to cause gentle blanching of the tissues. Any pressure more forceful than this may cause tooth damage. When brushing, make short, small strokes on just 2 teeth at a time, instead of wide strokes across several teeth. Take your time. People that get in a rush tend to brush more aggressively.
Breaking the habit of hard brushing is a difficult one to make but is the only way to prevent toothbrush abrasion. If you’re having a hard time transitioning, consider using a high quality electric brush. Concentrate on holding the brush in place and allowing it to do all of the work for you. At first it may feel like you’re not cleaning your teeth as efficiently, because you aren’t scrubbing the teeth. In the end your teeth will be just as clean with a soft bristled brush, or even cleaner if you use an electric toothbrush.
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